tv Mosaic World News LINKTV October 9, 2012 11:30am-12:00pm PDT
he depicd itop, its street-smart citizens and thrill-seeking visitors... boozers... and working girls... actors, singers... and dancers... middle class males on the prowl and their not so innocent working class female prey. he haunted montmartre's night clubs... and dance halls... cabarets... and cafés, circuses... and theatres. sketching by night, painting by day, he translated ephemeral moments into portraits of a gas lit world fuelled by restless energy. he could use his very fluent draftsmanship to give a sense of the most immediate, the most spontaneous recording and projecting of something seen in the modern world. that economy also spreads to the devices he uses,
which bring the spectator of his works into the game. "i recognize that. i know that that's very up to date. i understand it. i am modern like the artist." and it's that interplay that he generates between the spectator and his audience that is very, very modern. (narrator) the painter of montmartre's decadence had an aristocratic start. born in 1864, henri raymond de toulouse-lautrec came from a noble and distinguished family-- count raymond of toulouse had helped capture jerusalem in the first crusade. henri's branch of the family came from the red-brick city of albi in the south of france. henri grew up in a world of chateaus and privilege in a family living on the fruits of its noble past. but a france governed by the middle class was
losing its taste for nobility. like many aristocrats, his father alphonse retreated into rural pastimes-- riding and hunting. an eccentric, he looked wistfully back to the family's glorious past. alphonse had married his first cousin adele, a common practice in a class anxious to preserve the purity of its bloodlines. but the results of inbreeding for henri were uncommonly cruel. his legs were short and weak. he broke each of them in early adolescence and stopped growing when he was 14. he was just under five feet tall. his head, hands and torso continued to develop. but his stunted legs made walking painful for the rest of his life. denied the aristocratic pleasures of riding and hunting, henri turned to sketching and painting rural scenes. he had a flair for it and in 1882, at the age of 18, he moved to paris to study painting.
it was a move that would change the direction of his art and his life. paris in the 1880s was becoming the modern city. baron haussmann's legacy, the great boulevards that define modern paris had sliced through the heart of the city, displacing anyone in the way. the poor and the working class moved out of the city's center. many went to montmartre. annexed by paris in 1860, the hilly, warren-like neighborhood of narrow streets climbed to the top of a butte on the city's northern edge. montmartre clung to the vestiges of its agricultural past. hillside vineyards produced wine for its cafés. its windmills still turned in lautrec's day, a favorite subject of artists including vincent van gogh who also painted the view of paris from his window in 1886. cheap rents had attracted young artists for years--
edgar degas and auguste renoir rented studios there, livingnd working cheeko jowl with the poor and working classes. in the early 1880s, paris was still recovering from the impact of the french defeat in the franco-prussian war of 1870. honoré daumier chronicled to the shame and anger that followed the surrender. the new regime, the third republic, failed to establish public order and suspended civil liberties. paris erupted. led by radicals, the city elected an alternative government-- the paris commune-- that drove the politicians of the third republic to versailles. already ravaged by prussian artillery fire, paris paid a terrible price for its short lived resistance to the new republic's authority. edouard manet depicted the essence of the short, violent suppression of the commune as french troops fired on french civilians-- killing thousands before they squashed the rebelli.
the national soul-searching for the reasons behind the violence and chaos continued for decades. the middle class blamed the lower classes for abandoning patriotic virtues for decadence-- turning to alcoholism and prostitution and away from respect for authority. they saw decadence differently from the heights of montmartre. the third republic's succession of ineffectual and corrupt governments smacked of decadence and failed to address the social problems created by avaricious capitalism and industrialization. pollution and urban poverty plagued the capital until the end of the century. montmartre's artists found a new role for themselves. it was basically the concept of the independent artist, the bohemian artist, against the bourgeoisie, the establishment life, which had evolved since the early part of the 19th century.
no longer did they have to kowtow to the establishment because thestablishment wasn't as empowered. the third repuic was really very weak. (narrator) the plight of the poor was a frequent subject. henri paul royer's view from the butte gave a human face to montmartre's grinding poverty. ramón casas noted the ramshackle poverty of back streets lying in the imposing shadow of the church of sacre-coeur. built with government financial assistance as penance for the sins of a defeated nation, sacre-coeur was also a call to arms for the moral regeneration of a france led by church and state. it was very quickly interpreted by montmartre's media, especially the radical media, as an imposition of the third republic's power on montmartre. and that served as the focus to all the anti-militarists, anti-clericalists and anti-capitalists, who transformed it into a symbol of oppression by the establishment-- an attempt to dominate the anti-establishment elements of montmartre.
(narrator) in an attempt to defuse the situation, the government loosened the restrictions imposed on the popular press after the suppression of the commune. in 1881, for the first time, you could publish journals with illustrations that did not have to be checked by the censor every day. simultaneously with this were new technologies in printing, using photomechanical processes, which allowed journals to be printed very cheaply, about one-tenth the cost as before. and so with the combination of no censorship and cheap journals, with artists and writers working together, you had a new journalistic club that was there to go after the bourgeoisie, and toulouse-lautrec became a part of that. (narrator) lautrec's apprenticeship as a painter began in montmartre at the studio of fernand cormon. cormon encouraged his students to have fun. lautrec's playfulness is recorded in photos-- he enjoyed dressing up in exotic costumes
and exploring the possibilities of trick photography, which was popular in the late 19th century. but his interest lay in what one writer called "the search for the present moment." like the impressionists, he was a naturalist, but he peered beyond the surface-- in search of his subjects' inner life. in 1887, he sold this painting to the art dealer theo van gogh, vincent's brother. the two artists were friends-- lautrec sketched vincent's portrait-- and van gogh shared lautrec's interest in subjects drawn from montmartre's public life. but lautrec's great early influence was the work of edgar degas. there's a wonderful anecdote about how, after dinner one evening, he took some friends for what he called a dessert and took them to a friend's apartment where he showed them a painting by degas. what degas stood for was a kind of sophisticated naturalism in painting. degas, in the 1870s, had used cut-off figures,
steep angled perspectives, and other devices to give a dramatic sense of immediacy in a way of representing the modern world. lautrec borrowed those kinds of devices for his work. (narrator) the lessons degas offered in a work like in a café-- off-center compositions and cropped figures observed in the real world-- would emerge in lautrec's art. but he reached beyond the frontiers of naturalism and moved into more expressive territory. as he grew into his own style, you see a greater difference between lautrec and degas. and one way you see that especially is that toulouse-lautrec always seems to have a greater emotional intimacy, i'd say, with his models. there's always more of an empathy or an understanding, something closer that he's revealing. (narrator) montmartre was home to art forms as radical as its anti-establishment politics. artistic cabarets like the lapin agile
were magnets for the disaffected. anarchists, socialists, young artists, writers and singers created a culture of criticism. it frightened the government and titillated middle class parisians eager to slip the leash ofespectability. the uncontested star performer was aristide bruant. bruant fused the slang and experience of the poor into songs of bitterness, and rage. "the lyrics of filth" fumed one critic-- but audiences loved him. it was unrequited love. beginning in 1881, bruant began a career of insulting the rich and singing his outrage at the broken lives of the poor in a montmartre cabaret called le chat noir-- the black cat. ♪
(narrator) the owner, rodolphe salis, created a shrewd mix of anti-establishment politics and avant-garde culture that sought and found a clientele of artists, writers and intellectuals. the cabaret was the center of their activity. they began publishing, illustrating books, exhibiting their work, and establishing montmartre as the center of the world artistically. everybody who came to paris had to stop by and visit the cabaret chat noir and to encounter these artists who literally and figuratively looked down on the rest of establishment france. (narrator) the chat noir was an enormous success-- and a source of inspiration for artists. a weekly newspaper edited by salis spread the cabaret's irreverent message to 20,000 readers. adolphe willette caught the spirit advocated at the chat noir in a canvas he painted and hung there in 1884. a cast of disreputable characters
cascading disruptively down the hill, defiantly and exuberantly dressed for decadence. it was an anarchic wind, blowing from the butte at the straight-laced values promoted by the third republic. decadence was manufactured by the writers and artists of the time in order to fit into the mold of bohemia. but was there real decadence in the sense that we see it as a deteriorating society, and so forth? from our viewpoint today, no, it was a very creative period of time-- of manufactured decadence. (narrator) this exuberant, anarchic world was lautrec's home, workplace and subject of his greatest work-- an oasis of pleasure in a troubled country. france, around 1890, was a very tense society. the republic planned to make big reforms, but was slow in doing so. so the broad mass of the middle classes
were holding change back, and the working classes were feeling restless. lautrec, as an aristocrat, was rather outside this tension, but that gave him the opportunity, the position, to look at what was going on and observe it in his art. (narrator) he painted montmartre's types-- the working class women eager to pose for cash. and he began to frequent and paint its public spaces and entertainments-- including its circuses. a staple of popular entertainment in the 19th century, the circus was much loved by artists including pierre bonnard and lautrec's friend louis anquetin, for its color, movement and excitement. lautrec was intrigued by the clowns-- whose mix of fantasy and menace seemed to reveal a psychological dimension. the 1888 painting at the cirque fernando is a study of the tensions between the ringmaster's coolly arrogant control and the athletic sexuality of the rider.
a figure glamorous at a distance but at close quarters an image of coarseness caked with make up. the combination of forbidden pleasures and spectacle that characterized paris at the end of the 19th century was winked at by a government hungry for revenue from the entertainment industry. middle class parisians and tourists in search of fun paid tax when they ate in restaurants, drank in bars, and traveled home in hansom cabs. the pace of modern life was accelerating and lautrec was the artist who saw its impact on public life most clearly. montmartre, its dance halls and cabarets brimming with sensuality and urban edge, set the pace for modern paris. the moulin de la galette was its center. the moulin de la galette was basically a worker's dance hall, and, so, it was kind of the guts of montmartre. it's where the workers went. it's where prostitutes went.
it's where the robber would be, and so forth. it was really the heart of, not bohemian life, but of working-class impoverished life in montmartre. (narrator) in moulin de la galette, toulouse-lautrec provided a snap-shot of a seedy, nocturnal world. in the background, a frieze of dancers and their spectators... to the side a policeman keeps the peace. and in the foreground, a watchful quartet-- prostitutes and their pimp-- sizing up prospects. lautrec paints it in a way that not only does the subject matter come across as this seedy, sordid surrounding, but the paint is applied in a similar way. he takes very liquid paint, which he thinned out with turpentine, and streaks it across the canvas. so he creates a very, almost sub-aqueous atmosphere, and people picked up on that right away. (narrator) in may of 1889, a reproduction of moulin de la galette
appeared in the courrier francais-- a newspaper that had published copies of lautrec's work in preceding weeks. the originals were hung in aristide bruant's new club. bruant bought the lease to the chat noir and changed its name to le mirliton-- slang for "trashy verse." he continued his nightly assaults on the middle-class audience-- referring to his patrons as pigs-- and they continued to love it. he published a magazine to promote the cabaret and his songs, commissioning covers from up-and-coming artists like lautrec who were keen to extend their reach beyond fine art. young artists could have their work shown in alternative venues, like the chat noir, or published in non-art press, the courrier francais or the chat noir journal. and it gave them a distribution that really had not been possible before. (narrator) the walls of paris were offering another possibility. in the 1890s they were rapidly becoming outdoor art galleries.
the city auctioned off wall space to advertisers who plastered posters everywhere-- and artists saw the chance to advance their careers by dnioste jules chéret wg of t postrtts-- his coquettish figures were called chérettes. he was charles zidler's first choice when he needed an image to promote the opening of the moulin rouge in 1889. two yes later, lac wa cic- doffing his cap to chéret, he created a sensation with his first stab at lithography-- a medium that would become his métier. the poster featured la goulue, the bawdy high-energy dancer. accompanied by the supple valentin le désossé-- valentine the boneless-- she was the undisputed star of the moulin rouge. the new entertainment complex of stages, dance floors, gardens, bars--
and a plaster elephant acquired from the grounds of the 1889 world's fair. lautrec had first seen and painted the dancers at the moulin de la galette in 1887. he'd also seen something new-- the show theers, the latest craze in pasian tertainments lit from behind, the figures-- cut from zinc-- were operated by a team of stage hands. the poster's silhouettes inspired by the shadow theatre conveyed the modernity of the moulin rouge. lautrec had a fascination with performers off and on stage that drove his art for the rest of his life. the moulin rouge continued to attract him-- he caught the pensive side of the female clown cha-u-ka-o... dancers in the stage lights and their promenading audience... and the casual, commercial encounters in the shadows... in at the moulin rouge, begun in 1892, he depicted himself at its center.
la goulue arranges her hair as a lady of the night cruises by. in a world of mirrors where surface is everything, the hectic pursuit of pleasure is reflected endlessly. aristide bruant, no stranger to self-promotion, noticed the impact of lautrec's first poster. to promote his performances at a café-concert on the champs-elysées-- safe in the heart of metropolitan paris-- bruant commissioned a poster from lautrec. he captured bruant's persona in his expression-- half-smirk, half-scowl-- and reduced his trademark cloak, scarf and hat to a minimum-- simplicity learned from japanese artists. clearly relishing the irony of marketing a roughneck to the bourgeoisie, lautrec added a sinister figure in the backgrou-- clearly relishing the irony of a nod the dangeus streets of me. bourgeoisie, it was stunningly modern. in a second commission lautrec simplified the image even further.
bruant sold copies inside his cabaret, posted it outside, and incorporated det of the ag lrltern the poster went up all ov paris. it was reprinted in different versions for twenty years. it also worked its way into a drawing by steinlen for bruant's magazine. the posters made bruant one of the most recognizable entertainers in frenchistory. in a fourth collaboration, toulouse-lautrec could rely on the public to recognize the singer from behind. ♪ bruant had moved down the hill to central paris and mainstream fame. montmartre was headed downtoo-- its innovative art forms diluted for the tourist trade. toulouse-lautrec kept his edge and continued to concentrate on performers.
the american dancer loie fuller hit paris like a meteor shower-- her dancing and innovative use of dynamic electric lighting appealed to the french vogue for modernity. intrigued by her swirling forms, lautrec produced a series of lithographs. as close to abstraction as he ever ventured, the colors were altered with each printing and the final stone lightly dusted with silver or gold. admirers of art nouveau praised the finished product's swirling line, but fuller preferred jules chéret's approach. lautrec was prone to what he called furias-- short, intense devotions to entertainers that intrigued him. the dancer marcelle lender thrilled him-- he attended more than 20 performances of an operetta simply to sketch her. the painting, marcelle lender dancing the bolero in chilpéric, caught lender center stage--
framed by the lush colors of the sets and costumes. jane avril, the moulin rouge star described by a critic as "dancing with an air of depraved virginity," became both a subject and a friend. he even posed for a photo in her coat and hat. avril was cultured and delicate. institutionalized briefly as a teenager, she sat for lautrec and commissioned posters from him. he allowed her a privacy absent in his depictions of other stars-- focusing on her as a fragile and enigmatic personality rather than a commodity to be packaged. his poster for the divan japonais, a café-concert, placed avril in profile beside the writer edouard dujardin. and at the top-- a playful allusion to another star recognizable to parisians by her long gloves: yvette guilbert. she made her name with witty monologues-- half spoken, half sung and often risqué.
in a simple, elegant image-- allowing her trademark black gloves to convey her celebrity. lautrec also painted a series of pictures of the more private world of parisian brothels. dotted around the city, discreet entrances opened into a hidden world that had been a part of french life for centuries. upscale brothels known as maisons closes-- closed houses-- were housed in well-appointed buildings. in the 1890s, toulouse-lautrec was an occasional customer at a maison close this buding across th re from atoi brothels and t life withhem
were frequent subjects for 19th-century artists, including edgar degas. lautrec, a frequent client, painted the day-to-day life of prostitutes without prejudice. these women, in pictures like the sofa, just sit there, calm, unmolested by clients. there are other pictures where he takes a much less sympathetic, more caricatural attitude. a painting like "the laundryman," for example, shows a man leering at a prostitute who seems to have left her dressing gown hanging open. but there are other pictures, again, where he seems to have a very, very sympathetic attitude. the great painting of the medical inspection shows a tremendous sympathy to the women in the maison close, and the plush red, rather torrid background against which these pale bodies are set, gives it a very poignant atmosphere. (narrator) then as now it was a touchy subject-- the paintings were rarely and screetly shown in lautrec's lifetime. by the late 1890s, lautrec's lifestyle--
the late nights of furias and frantically sketching the decadent dream, the drinking, carousing and behaving badly had taken its toll. no drink was too strong or strong enough. he created a "cocktail" called the earthquake-- equal parts absinthe and brandy. in 1897 he moved to the avenue frochot, a private street on the lower slopes of montmartre. but the drinking continued and he lost control of his line and his life. a final design for a poster commissioned by jane avril emerged, but was never executed. in 1899 his family had him committed to an asylum. produced a series of masterful depictions of circus scenes remembered from his youth to convince the doctors of his rehabilitation. the drawings persuaded his doctors that he was in charge of his life, but that illusion was short-lived. after a vacation he began to drink heavily,
insulting and occasionally assaulting friends and strangers. he frequented old haunts and painted a blowsy courtesan plying her trade-- using looser brushwork than ever before. in 1901, at the age of 36, he died from a combination of syphilis, alcoholism, and congenital infirmities. his father wrote to his first teacher "the little one as you used to call him died last night. i saw him but he did not see me; his eyes were wide open but after three or four days in a delirium they saw nothing. more painful perhaps for us, who have lost him, than for himself, who has come to the end of his suffering." lautrec's eyes, finally closed, had seen like no one else the strangeness, glamour, sensuality and beauty of montmartre. the stars who fueled it shined more brightly